[Marxism] Zizek Watch 2

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Mar 29 12:38:46 MST 2004

Chronicle of Higher Education, April 2, 2004

Zizek Watch


The world's leading cultural theorist has held exactly the same academic 
title for a quarter of a century. Slavoj Zizek is a "researcher" at the 
Institute for Social Sciences at the University of Ljubljana, in 
Slovenia. He attributes his great intellectual vitality to the fact that 
he has no reason to work very hard. "I'm on a permanent sabbatical," he 
tells Zizek Watch. "I have a pure research job, where I do nothing."

A strange claim, coming from a man who publishes two or three books a 
year. "OK," he says, "I work all the time. But whatever I do counts for 
research. For the last two years, I was not even once at my job. I have 
a secretary who writes reports for me and knows how to forge my signature."

And so in February, when BBC Radio broadcast a program called "The Art 
of Laziness," Mr. Zizek appeared on it as a uniquely qualified expert. 
He criticized programs that teach relaxation techniques. "If you look 
closely at their leaflets," he said, "they tell you first that we are 
hyperactive and should learn to withdraw. But next, the second 
paragraph, they always say: 'This way you will relax and be even more 

Alluding to the surrealist thinker Georges Bataille, Mr. Zizek denounced 
"the hidden economy of 'I am lazy a little bit so that I will work 
better.'" Instead, he offered the example of residents of Montenegro, an 
earthquake-prone area of the former Yugoslavia. The local ethnic 
stereotype is that inhabitants of the region are utterly shiftless.

"The zero-level standard joke about laziness is how a Montenegro guy 
masturbates," he said. "He digs a hole in the earth, puts his penis in, 
and waits for the earthquake." The pleasure that Montenegrins take in 
telling the joke seems to Mr. Zizek to be the correct attitude toward 
both laziness and political incorrectness. "Instead of being afraid of 
this attitude," he said, "you freely, in a gesture of Bataillean 
autonomy and sovereignty, assume" the quality attributed to you.

It is not, however, an attitude that Mr. Zizek takes into the classroom. 
"I don't teach," he tells Zizek Watch. "Why should I teach? I'm not crazy."


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